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Proper Fireplace Care Ensures Warm and Safe Heating
(ARA) – As the temperatures drop, there’s nothing like coming home and warming up in front of a toasty fire. Indeed, more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes, according to the United States Fire Administration. However, heating is the leading cause of winter fires. Each year, more than a half million winter fires cause $3 billion in property loss, 1,900 deaths and nearly 8,000 injuries.

One way to help prevent a winter fire is to clean your fireplace and chimney before the first fire of the season. Here’s what you need to know to make your fireplace safer:

  • Buildup
    Clean creosote and soot that accumulates on the inside walls of the fireplace and chimney. Creosote is a highly flammable brown or black residue that can cause chimney fires. Soot is made up of carbon – fine black particles that build up and can be difficult to clean once in the home.
  • Equipment
    You will need a variety of equipment to properly clean your fireplace. Instead of buying equipment that you’ll only use once a year and then have to store in your home, save time and money by renting it from your local American Rental Association member rental store.
    Before renting, measure the size of your chimney to determine the right size brushes. You will need brushes, rods, a ladder, protective coverings for furniture, buckets, a shovel and broom, vacuum cleaner and flashlight. If you have any questions, rental store staff can provide you with all the information on how to use the equipment.
  • Protective Measures
    For yourself, be sure to wear old clothes that can get dirty, and safety goggles and a dust mask to avoid getting soot into your eyes or lungs. Cover all interior furniture, rugs and other items in the room to prevent soot from settling in fabric fibers.
  • Roof Cleaning
    Before getting on the roof, make sure you have someone to spot and help you with the project. Climb your ladder carefully, bringing the rods and brushes with you. Assemble the rods and brushes and run down the chimney, using a short up and down motion. Buildup should fall to the bottom of the fireplace where you can easily remove it.
  • Indoor Cleaning
    Inside your fireplace you will find the damper and the flue. The damper is the hardware inside the fireplace that controls the air flow. The flue is the pipe that runs between the fireplace and chimney. Both can have buildup of soot and creosote. Use a hand brush to scrub clean.
    Use a small shovel and broom to clean the debris that has accumulated. Use a vacuum to clean up any fine dirt within the fireplace. Vacuum the surrounding floor thoroughly.
  • Inspection
    While cleaning your fireplace, inspect it for any major changes. Loose bricks around the fireplace should be repaired immediately. The glass doors on the outside of the fireplace should be cleaned regularly to increase heat transfer. For any major concerns, have your fireplace inspected by a professional.
  • Firewood
    Use a clean burning wood that has been properly dried. Also, save money by cutting firewood out of trees from your own yard. Trees and large branches that have fallen in storms make particularly good firewood, because they are already on the ground.
    To cut the firewood, you’ll need a chainsaw, an iron wedge, a sledge hammer and a splitting maul. All these tools are available at your local ARA member rental store. Employees there will also be able to provide you with the important safety precautions you’ll need to operate the equipment.

Follow these tips for a cleaner and safer fireplace. For more ideas about how you can use rental equipment to clean your fireplace and chimney, or to find the rental store nearest you, visit

Equipment for these tasks can be rented from American Rental Association (ARA) member rental stores. To find one, search this Web site by geographical area, and more specifically, by the type of equipment you are looking to rent.

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